Act with Loving Kindness
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Acts of Loving Kindness
VALUES
 
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G’milut chasadim, literally meaning “the giving of loving kindness,” is an essential social value in the everyday lives of Jews. It is a mitzvah that an individual acts with g’milut chasadim without anticipating receiving something in return. There is no fixed measure for this mitzvah, which is one reason why rabbinic teachers articulate the importance of doing it all the time. Pirke Avot teaches that our lives should be centered on the study of the Torah, the worship of G-d, and acts of loving kindness. Tradition suggests that these three things allow us to enter the World to Come, but also are indicative of our living full, complete lives.

The sages of the Talmud teach that g’milut chasadim is more important than tzedakah, charity. While charity often is understood as acts of goodwill and are signs of generosity, Jewish tradition understands tzedakah as a moral obligation to do what is right and just. Talmudic sages outline three distinct reasons for g’milut chasadim being the higher of the two values: (1) Tzedakah can only be carried out by giving money, whereas g’milut chasadim involves giving of one’s person, for example by a kindly word or a pat on the shoulder, or by generally offering words of comfort and consolation. (2) Tzedakah is directed to the poor, whereas g’milut chasadim involves the expression of goodwill to all, rich or poor, healthy or sick, to the successful as well as to those who fall short of success. (3) Tzedakah is given to the living. G’milut chasadim can be extended to the dead by attending to the burial and going to the funeral. The sages, then, teach that our acts of g’milut chasadim are what helps us be righteous (tzadik, which derives from the same root as tzedakah). In other words, the giving of tzedakah may be a mitzvah within itself, but true righteousness does not come from tzedakah, but what we do to touch people’s lives.

From Our Texts
“The world stands on three things: Torah, divine work and acts of loving kindness.” -Pirke Avot 1:2

“I owe myself respect for the divinity with which I am touched and for the singularity of my being. But my neighbor is exactly in my case. He too is a child of G-d and equally unique. Therefore, when I inquire as to my duties to my fellow I can accept only one answer: I may not withhold from him, or to permit others to withhold any of the reverence, solicitude, and freedom I claim for myself.” -Milton Steinberg, Basic Judaism, 1987

An excellent source of inspiration and activities is The Kindness Curriculum, by Judith Anne Rice, designed for parents and teachers to help children “develop their intrinsic abilities to be happy, productive, and caring individuals” (http://judithannerice.com/).

Show your love through kind actions.

Acts of Loving Kindness Videos

Songs for Loving Kindness


External Links

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